Barry Legg

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Barry Legg
Member of Parliament
for Milton Keynes South West
In office
9 April 1992 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byPhyllis Starkey
Councillor (Regent's Park)
In office
Preceded byDavid Avery
Succeeded byWilliam Wells
Personal details
Born (1949-05-30) 30 May 1949 (age 74)
Political partyConservative
Alma materUniversity of Manchester
ProfessionChartered Accountant

Barry Charles Legg (born 30 May 1949)[1] was the Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Milton Keynes South West from 1992 until the 1997 general election when he was defeated by Labour's Phyllis Starkey. Legg is the chairman of the Eurosceptic Bruges Group.[2]


Prior to becoming an MP Legg was a director of Hillsdown Holdings, one of Britain's biggest food groups at that time and owner of leading brands such as Typhoo tea, Hartley's jam and Buxted chickens, having joined the firm in 1978. He became company secretary in 1982 and a director in 1986. He left Hillsdown "by mutual consent" in September 1992 with a 'golden handshake' of £200,000 "after it was decided to replace him with someone who could devote their full energies to the job."[3][4]

Career in local government[edit]

Legg – an accountant and tax specialist – entered politics in 1978 as a Conservative councillor for the Regent's Park ward on Westminster City Council.[5][6] He became the Conservative Chief Whip on the council during Dame Shirley Porter's leadership.[7][8] He was later linked with the 'homes for votes scandal' in which council homes in eight key marginal wards were sold instead of being re-let to council tenants or used to alleviate homelessness.[9] Believing that council tenants were more likely to vote Labour, the Conservative council intended that this strategy would result in "a pattern of tenure which is more likely to translate into Conservative votes."[10][11]

A second independent inquiry identified Legg as the chairman of a secret Westminster council committee meeting that took the decision in 1989 to place 100 homeless families, including 150 children, in two dilapidated tower blocks already known to be full of asbestos.[9][12][13] A report from 1983 had warned: "It is considered that these two tower blocks... may provide the greatest potential for asbestos release within residential accommodation in Britain."[14] The official inquiry found that it was "abundantly clear" that the committee knew that the tower blocks, Chantry Point and Hermes Point in Paddington, had asbestos problems and were in a terrible condition.[12] The District Auditor also found that the decision, "leaving aside the serious ethical concerns that it raised, was unlawful because it was taken by a secret and unaccountable group."[15] The scandal was the subject of an exposé by social affairs programme Public Eye, broadcast on 30 November 1995 on BBC Two.[16]

Legg's time as a councillor and his conduct in public life and business were the subject of a joint investigation by The Guardian newspaper and the BBC Radio 4 Today programme in May 2003.[17]

Career in Parliament[edit]

After being defeated by Labour's Derek Foster at Bishop Auckland in 1983, Legg gained election for Milton Keynes South West at the 1992 General Election. He was unseated at the 1997 General Election.

Described as an 'unreconstructed' Thatcherite, Legg is a co-founder of the Conservative Way Forward campaigning group and was a member of the No Turning Back Group (NTBG) and one of the Maastricht Rebels.[18][19]

Tax reform[edit]

In 1992 Legg co-authored Maintaining Momentum: a Radical Tax Agenda for the 1990s which proposed a reduction in the basic rate of income tax to 20%, the abolition of Inheritance Tax and temporarily raising the threshold for higher rate income tax to £100,000, followed by its abolition.[20]

Welfare reform[edit]

In 1993 Legg was the co-author, with Iain Duncan Smith and 3 other members of the NTBG, of a report which proposed cutting £8 billion from the social security budget.[21] The report made a number of recommendations:[22]

  • Merging all means-tested and other non-contributory benefits into a single benefit called "whole person benefit" (WPB)
  • Privatisation of the National Insurance "pay-as-you-go" benefit system and introduction of private pensions and private insurance against unemployment, long-term sickness and invalidity
  • Abolition of child benefit
  • Introduction of smart card technology to reduce fraud
  • Equalisation of retirement ages for men and women at 67
  • Abolition of the State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme
  • Cutting the entitlement to unemployment benefit from 12 months to 6 months
  • Abolition of mortgage tax relief, rent rebates and housing benefits.

Chief Executive of the Conservative Party[edit]

On 14 February 2003 Legg was controversially appointed by Iain Duncan Smith to be the new Conservative Party Chief Executive – "against the wishes of the party's ruling board" – and Chief of Staff of Duncan Smith's private office.[23][24][25] The appointment was vetoed by the board and Legg, described as Duncan Smith's "right wing ally unpopular with many MPs", resigned on 7 May 2003 with a six-figure severance package.[23][26][27][28] Conservative Party peer Lord Spicer later reported that Duncan Smith was "almost in tears" and threatened to resign if the Conservative Party board would not let him keep Legg.[29]


  • Legg, Barry; Gibb, Nick (1992). Maintaining Momentum: A radical tax agenda for the 1990s. London: Conservative Way Forward.
  • Duncan, Alan; Duncan-Smith, Iain; Jenkin, Bernard; Legg, Barry; Whittingdale, John (1993). Who Benefits? Reinventing Social Security. London: Conservative Political Centre. ISBN 9780850708561.


  1. ^ "Mr Barry Legg". Hansard. London. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Should Britain hold an In/Out referendum on its EU membership before the next election?". City A.M. London. 8 July 2013. p. 17.
  3. ^ Cowe, Roger (9 April 1993). "£200,000 pay-off for Tory MP who couldn't do his job full-time". The Guardian. Manchester.
  4. ^ "TOUGH AT THE TOP". The Daily Telegraph. London. 10 April 1993. p. 5.
  5. ^ Kay, Helen; Gerard, Jasper (26 April 1992). "City slickers march into Westminster". The Times. London.
  6. ^ Hosken 2006, p. 40.
  7. ^ Hencke, David (9 September 1993). "Porter to face questions". The Guardian. Manchester.
  8. ^ "Homes for votes: faces behind exposé that shook the Tories". The Times. London. 14 January 1994.
  9. ^ a b "A discredited Tory chief: Barry Legg should resign or be fired". The Guardian. London. 7 May 2003. p. 1.
  10. ^ Cohen, Nick (16 January 1994). "Dumping the poor". The Independent. London. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Q&A: Dame Shirley's downfall". BBC News. 24 April 2004. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  12. ^ a b Hencke, David; Evans, Rob (6 May 2003). "Tory chief's role in housing scandal revealed". The Guardian. London. p. 1.
  13. ^ Woolf, Marie (7 May 2003). "Duncan Smith faces fresh pressure to sack chief executive". The Independent. London. p. 2.
  14. ^ Hosken 2006, p. 244.
  15. ^ Hosken 2006, p. 251.
  16. ^ "TV PROGRAMME TO MAKE NEW ALLEGATIONS AGAINST WESTMINSTER COUNCIL". Local Government Chronicle. London. 30 November 1995. Retrieved 9 November 2013. (subscription required)
  17. ^ "NEW TORY CHIEF'S ROLE IN HOUSING SCANDAL HIGHLIGHTED". Local Government Chronicle. London. 6 May 2003. Retrieved 9 November 2013. (subscription required)
  18. ^ Travis, Alan (14 January 1994). "WESTMINSTER SCANDAL: Key players: An unreconstructed Thatcherite at the core of the cottage plot". The Guardian. Manchester.
  19. ^ Webster, Philip (2 November 1992). "Maastricht vote on knife edge as rebels hold firm". The Times. London.
  20. ^ "The moral case for lower taxes". Forward. London: Conservative Way Forward (Summer 2011): 7. ISSN 0965-3724.
  21. ^ Shrimsley, Robert (3 August 1993). "MPs propose tailor-made benefits to cut spending". The Daily Telegraph. London. p. 8.
  22. ^ Wood, Nicholas (3 August 1993). "MPs want to slash social security funds". The Times. London.
  23. ^ a b Woods, Richard; Nelson, Dean (19 October 2003). "Focus: Handbags at dawn for IDS". The Sunday Times. London.
  24. ^ Morris, Nigel; Russell, Ben (30 October 2003). "Requiem for the quiet man: a fatal cocktail of dismal faults and failures". The Independent. London.
  25. ^ Newman, Cathy (18 June 2003). "U-turn at Tory HQ reignites doubts on leadership". Financial Times. London. p. 3.
  26. ^ Brady, Brian (19 October 2003). "You can't get the staff". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh. p. 15.
  27. ^ "Steps along the road to today's vote of confidence". The Herald. Glasgow. 29 October 2003. p. 6.
  28. ^ Pierce, Andrew (9 May 2003). "Duncan Smith in £160,000 wrangle". The Times. London.
  29. ^ Spicer, Lord (1 April 2012). "Tears of rage over leadership battle". The Sunday Telegraph. London. p. 22.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South West
Succeeded by